Dear Western Community:
Happy New Year, and welcome back to campus! I hope that you had the opportunity to rest and recharge over the holiday break, spend time with family and friends, or just enjoy some downtime between quarters.
Last fall I stated my commitment to listening and learning from you, the students, faculty and staff who are Western, and to expanding my understanding of Western’s strengths as well as the areas in which we can aspire to be better. I had the opportunity to meet with groups from across the university in listening sessions, dialogues and focus groups, and look forward to continuing these meetings throughout the winter and spring.
As a result of what I have learned so far, here are some of my priorities for the remainder of the academic year:
- Increasing access and student success remains at the top of the list. From students and faculty alike I have heard about difficulties in getting the classes needed for timely progress to degree and graduation, particularly in the STEM disciplines. As you know, our legislative decision packages include a funding request to address bottlenecks in STEM courses, as well as basic services required for academic success for all students, including advising, tutoring and mental health counseling. We will be advocating in Olympia for funding of those packages over the next few months. In the meantime, we are providing one-time funds to add class sections in various bottleneck areas, with the intention to provide permanent funding for hiring faculty to address those bottleneck areas in the next academic year. Provost Carbajal is working with relevant colleges and units to allocate this funding. We will also be seeking greater understanding of the drivers for increasing student retention and graduation rates, and reducing achievement gaps among student groups.
- Complete the strategic planning process by summer 2017. We have initiated the process for developing the University’s Strategic Plan that captures our aspirations and identifies mission critical goals and metrics needed to position Western for continued success in the future. A broadly representative strategic planning committee has been identified and will begin soliciting input from the campus this winter and spring. Later this academic year, we will also begin the parallel work of developing a business or resource plan, to help operationalize our strategic goals.
- Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition to continuing progress on the diversity initiatives mentioned in my fall update, we will soon be initiating a campus climate survey so we can better understand the specific nature of our challenges and opportunities for growth in this area. We will authorize search for a position to facilitate, coordinate and provide oversight to LGBTQ activities and resources for all students, faculty and staff, an area that has previously been prioritized for support by the campus community, including the President’s Task Force on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity and the LGBT Advocacy Council, and included in the decision package to the legislature to enhance equity, inclusion and diversity. We will also continue to proactively monitor and address issues of safety and supportive educational environment for undocumented students and other vulnerable student groups. Supporting every member of the Western community, regardless of their identity or expression, remains a paramount Western commitment and value.
As I mentioned at the start of the year, there is much wisdom in the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if we want to go far, go together.” I am grateful for the partnership and collaboration I have witnessed among the students, faculty and staff governance groups, and know that we will make Western even stronger by working together, by being bold, and by being united in our purpose. I look forward to working with you to explore new opportunities the New Year provides.
As always, if you see me on campus or out in the community, please don’t hesitate to let me know what’s on your mind.